Art

Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France

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This exhibition looks at key moments in the development of art from the French Revolution to the Second World War.

The main subject matter of European art from the 15th century onwards had been the ruling classes and their possessions. Realism had been the dominant artistic form. However, the successive political upheavals of the 19th century encouraged the spirit of rebellion in the arts.

Can we define good art?

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Bob Light’s powerful tribute to John Berger (February SR) contained the claim, “There is no objective way to define what good art…is.” This raises interesting questions.

Clearly the merits of works of art cannot be measured in the same “objective” way as a person’s age or height. But societies (and individuals — including Berger and Light) do make aesthetic judgements and it is a mistake to imagine that these are purely subjective, individual or arbitrary.

Basquiat: Boom for Real

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Prior to the Barbican’s latest exhibition, Boom for Real, I knew very little about Jean-Michel Basquiat beyond the fact that he was black, hung out with Andy Warhol and died at the age of 27. Like most casual observers then, I was astonished when one of his untitled portraits sold for $110.5 million (£85 million) at Sotheby’s earlier this year.

Bleached out pop art for the wealthy

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Neoliberalism has promoted an art market that encourages the rise of artists such as Damien Hirst as "factory" owners, employing students on low wages to churn out works for the world's super-rich dealers and collectors. Noel Halifax asks how we got to this sad state of affairs.

What is art for? Oscar Wilde famously said that art was useless and by implication outside of utility — therefore it was able to transcend the capitalist system. Today the most successful artists seem to have rejected the notion of art as transcending the market and a system of value based on money in favour of a neoliberal art world of “art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake”, as rock band 10cc put it.

Anarchy & Beauty

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At the centre of his understanding of art, William Morris saw an inseparable connection between the imagination of the worker and his or her labour.

His concept of art was not simply making art objects to place in galleries or hang on rich people’s walls, but the human labour involved in making all the objects of our lives. He argued ideas of beauty were integral to us as human beings. Art was a result of the pleasure gained in the process of making something beautiful.

Mondrian and Colour

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Turner Contemporary, Margate. Until 21 September

Piet Mondrian declared that he was not interested in painting pictures, but that his art was about "seeking truth".

For him, this search came to mean reducing images of the things he saw around him to their most objective essence - to remove the subjective and thereby achieve clarity.

Mondrian's most famous works, the grids, use simple horizontal and vertical lines to separate the bright primary colours of red, yellow and blue to create a "universal harmony". It is easy to see the effect Mondrian's abstraction has had on areas of graphic design and architecture.

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